Adrenal Glands: Function, Cortex & Medulla

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Adrenal Glands: Epinephrine, Norepinephrine & Stress Adaptation

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:07 Adrenal Glands
  • 0:53 Adrenal Cortex and…
  • 3:55 Adrenal Medulla and…
  • 4:53 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Login or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

The adrenal glands sit on top of your kidneys and are comprised of an inner medulla region that is enclosed by the outer adrenal cortex. Both portions of the adrenal gland secrete hormones that regulate body functions and help maintain internal balance.

Adrenal Glands

As we learn about the endocrine system, we see that there are bits and pieces of endocrine tissue scattered about in different regions of your body. We even see endocrine glands sitting on top of each of your kidneys. In this lesson, we will learn about these unique and powerful glands that hover over the top of your kidneys, called the adrenal glands.

The adrenal glands are endocrine glands that sit right on top of the kidneys.
Adrenal Glands on Top of Kidneys

When you look at a picture of the kidneys, it's almost like they are wearing hats. These 'hats' are actually your adrenal glands. We can define the adrenal glands as hormone-producing glands located on top of the kidneys. When you look at a picture of one of your adrenal glands, it looks like a single organ. However, if you were to dissect the gland, you would quickly see that it's more like two endocrine glands in one.

Adrenal Cortex and Corticosteroids

The outer portion of the adrenal gland is called the adrenal cortex. It secretes steroid hormones. Steroid hormones are a class of hormones that are made from cholesterol. In today's world, cholesterol often gets a bad rap for being detrimental to heart health. But, it's interesting to learn that cholesterol actually serves a number of purposes in the body. For instance, if you did not have cholesterol, you would not be able to produce the steroid hormones from the adrenal cortex.

Without these hormones, your body would have a hard time regulating fluid and electrolyte balance and maintaining homeostasis. This is because the adrenal cortex secretes three major groups of steroid hormones that are collectively referred to as corticosteroids. This is an easy term to remember because we see that the prefix 'cortico' refers to the cortex of the adrenal gland and that the word 'steroid' is contained in the term. Therefore, we see that corticosteroids are steroid hormones secreted by the adrenal cortex.

Hormones secreted by the adrenal glands help maintain homeostasis in the body.
Adrenals Regulate Homeostasis

There are different kinds of corticosteroids that we see coming from the adrenal cortex. One kind is called mineralocorticoids. Mineralocorticoids are important hormones that help regulate the water and electrolyte balance in the body. The two most important electrolytes that are regulated are sodium and potassium. Because sodium and potassium are both minerals, it may help you to recall that mineralocorticoids are important in the regulation of minerals.

Glucocorticoids are another kind of corticosteroid that we see coming from the adrenal cortex. Glucocorticoids help regulate carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism and have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. It's thanks to glucocorticoids that we are able to cope with a wide range of long-term stressors. Glucocorticoid secretions will increase any time we deal with continual stress. Anything from the death of a loved one to prolonged fasting can stimulate the production of glucocorticoids.

In fact, one of the effects of glucocorticoids is to increase blood glucose levels so we have readily available glucose for energy. This fact may help you recall the term because glucocorticoids increase glucose. Also, because glucocorticoids have an anti-inflammatory property, synthetic glucocorticoids are often prescribed as drugs to treat chronic inflammatory disorders in many areas of the body, including the bowel, skin, bones and joints.

Synthetic glucocorticoids are prescribed to treat chronic inflammatory disorders.
Synthetic Glucocorticoids

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 160 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create An Account
Support